Just returned home from an absolutely brilliant oceans project outreach session at a local pre-school with a group of 12 little people aged 3-4 years old, who are undoubtedly the smartest kids I have ever met at that age (if not older!). I’m not usually one for saying that kids are cute either, for example, friends of mine recently had a baby, and whilst others were cooing over it, all I could think of, was how incredibly ugly it was, probably the ugliest baby I had ever seen, and really hoping to myself that it might just be an ugly duckling destined to become a beautiful swan. Especially since the parents were not so bad looking. Seriously, ugliest baby ever! I thought all babies were supposed to have inbuilt cuteness as an evolutionary survival thing! Not this one. Anyway, I’m really not one who gets excited about kids, or goes to pieces over them, but even I have to admit that the kids we met today were super cute, and perhaps little people are really not so bad after all. And before you say, not I am not in denial about wanting a little person of my own, nor is it something repressed or psychological or whatever. I just wasn’t born as one those people who gets excited about babies and little kids. They are noisy, they make a mess everywhere, they have constantly snotty noses, and they seem to attract sticky peanut butter, a food that I can’t stand. Hats off to the Georgians though, they are a very child friendly nation, they just love kids, and everything revolves around the kids. I’m sure they must exist somewhere, but I have yet to meet a Georgian who doesn’t completely crumple with affection whenever a child appears on the scene. Anyway, digressing again….point I’m making is, even I thought the kids today were cute.
So at 9am, myself and 9 of our Oceans Ambassadors met at the Elvis cafe, and one of the boys who attends the school we visited, took us there on the bus – a massive help since it seemed to take forever, I’d never been there before, and I’m really pretty rubbish with travelling around Georgia, especially whilst being responsible for a group of teens. But these guys really didn’t require much input from me, and it was lovely to realise just how much I trust them, and how well I have got to know them since we started project together in September. We actually had more kids who wanted to join us today, but even 9 seemed a little extreme to be taking to a class with 12 children, 1 teacher, and 1 classroom assistant! Actually it was the perfect number, and worked really well.
But, we arrived at 9am, I was a few minutes late as always, and the kids were spot on as always. Can’t fault them at all for their reliability and enthusiasm, and everyone had done the jobs that they agreed to do. We had planned the session together a few days ago, decided what activities we would like to do, bought a little plastic shark and dolphin, cried over the fact that we didn’t have enough money to buy the most amazing plastic figures of whale sharks and things that we had ever seen, and even had no idea of their existence, and made a vow that we would write to the company that makes them (Schleich) to see whether they might donate a little collection of sea animals to us for our educational box.
We had found an old box, and we had manage to get donated to us, some beautiful shiny blue paper, and I also found a set of ocean related stickers that my cousin had sent to me for Christmas from the UK, and using all these things, we created a magic box or treasure chest, or whatever you like to call it. Inside we put different ocean related items. Such as:
- a book about the river (picked up from a charity shop in the UK for my lessons at school last year). Great to talk about rivers running into the ocean, and the water cycle.
- a seahorse skeleton, dating from Stalin’s time, given to me by one of my students, perfect for illustrating the plight of the seahorse.
- a toy person, sent to me from a friend in the UK to donate to an orphanage, which I kept hold of for such an occasion, along with a beany baby polar bear.
- little plastic toys: shark, whale, seal picked up for 50tetri on a market stall
- these two beautiful to scale models of a shark and a dolphin from Schleich
- two beautiful stones, one fool’s gold, and one a rock with crystals inside to talk about ocean geology. I picked those up in Austria for 1euro
- a large seashell, perfect for handling and listening to the sea
I’m hoping to add more bits and pieces to the box, and this will be our education box for any future school visits we do, so perhaps I will pick up some things on my Pacific Ocean row. I might ask 5 Gyres to send me some of the plastic that they found inside a birds stomach too as I would really like to incorporate some plastic education into our sessions longer term.
But we found the school with no problem, checked through security and made our way to the pre school, with the Oceans Ambassadors excited, but looking a little nervous the closer we got to the school. The bus journey itself was pretty funny and I’m sure onlookers were very intrigued. We had selected two songs that we wanted to teach today, and everyone had been studying and practicing at home, even in the shower and in the garden apparently!! It always amazes me how children’s songs can so easily bury themselves inside your brain and remain there at all times whilst you don’t want them there, then when you do want them, they just pop out of your head! A definite advantage having 10 people together, especially when they have the words and actions written down and are practicing together on the bus, making funny hand gestures whilst also trying to stand up in a crowd of commuters, and holding on for dear life!!
We were met by a group of little people, who were polite and friendly, not at all shy, and who were taught to sit nicely and to raise their hand when they had a question. A first for me in Georgia, and fantastic to enter a classroom which actually felt like a classroom, with pictures on the wall and resources, and designated areas. It was immediately evident that the children had worked really hard all term on the oceans, and had made some amazing models together. A real credit to their teacher, a lovely lady from America, who brings back resources every sumer after her summer vacation at home. If I had a little kid, I would definitely want her to be their teacher. Confident, knowledgable, and even better, a scuba diver and ocean lover! Really great for my Oceans Ambassadors too, who have never been to a school like this or seen a more western style classroom or activities or children like this. some of our Ambassadors want to become teachers in the future, and I loved that they got a chance to see how a classroom should be run and equipped and how it is in so many countries around the world.
We all squeezed onto the round mat, with our legs crossed and hands in our laps, introduced ourselves, and then did my little hello song to warm things up. We talked a little bit about what they already knew of the ocean, and then we watched about 20minutes of the BBC Planet Earth, Shallow Seas episode, which my Ambassadors have also not seen before. I don’t have speakers for my laptop, but it didn’t seem to matter as we got them to name the different animals that they saw and asked them different questions, whilst they enjoyed watching the footage, especially the aerial photography, much of which shows the oceans from space. We saw two different kinds of octopus, pygmy seahorses, fish, a humpback whale and her baby, dugong (manatees), snakes that hunt in the water, and lots of coral. They knew and recognised all of these animals already, and it served as a great way to put them in the mood for the topics, and to follow on with questions and references throughout, plus they hadn’t seen this before, so it was new to them. As always, the dolphins were the most exciting and favourite!! And the fire clams were also very intriguing. Nice little selection of what we saw here:
Next, we took out the shiny blue magic box, and one by one, they had to come up and pick one item from the box. We asked them what they knew about each item, and told them something knew. The Schleich models turne out to be a really good investment, and we ended up asking the kids to talk about the difference between the animals, for example, the dolphin and the shark. This was a real eye opener to me, and I soon realised how much more observant children are than myself as an adult, and they really got me thinking. Putting the two models together really helped. For example, the shark has more fins than the dolphin, they have different teeth, one has a blow hole and one has gills, one has a rounded body, the other a flat body, and one has a pointy nose. Then we talked about something the things which were the same, and how you would know which was which if you were in the sea. Then we compared them to a whale which has different teeth, etc to both the dolphin and the shark, and we asked them what kinds of shark they knew. They loved putting the shell to their ears to listen for the sea, and it was great to have something so tactile. They also really enjoyed handling the rocks too, especially as one of them looks like an ordinary rock until you look inside and see crystals, and they loved how shiny the fools gold was and how it felt. I actually bought that because my dad found a few pieces on the beaches in Dorset when I was a kid, and to this day it remains one of the most amazing things I have ever seen or found, so I’m glad that the kids loved it so much, and I think it does well to introduce children to geology in some shape or form from an early age. For example, I never got to know anything about geology, it isn’t really taught in schools, and unless you happen to know someone who knows all about shells and stones and things, then you never really get to learn anything about the stuff we walk one everyday, and which makes up a substantial part of our planet’s fabric. I know it is something that I have always wanted to learn about, but was always a bit out there, not a career related or useful topic, and always just a luxury.
Next we moved on to our singing section, beginning with the Slippery Fish Song:
even better, was the fact that the kids already knew this song, and even had the music, so we all sang together and had lots of fun. If you don’t know the actions, you can use these, although we had our own:
Next, we did a version of the 5 Little Fish rhyme, but used finger puppets, and counting from 5 to zero, along the lines of this:
5 little fishies, swimming in the sea. Teasing Mr Sharkie, ‘you can’t catch me’. Along comes Mr Sharkie, as quiet as can be, and he snaps a little fishy right out from the sea.
Here is a similar video here:
This one they didn’t know, so it was great to teach them something knew, and they were really great with their numbers too, much better than expected, so we had a lot of fun with making it more dramatic as a rhyme. Then we split into little groups, one or two children with one or two Oceans Ambassadors, each group making very simple finger puppets from scrap paper, which we made into a tube to fit each finger, and glued or sellotaped together before drawing whatever fish, octopus, shark or whatever they wanted to draw. Our Ambassadors worked amazingly, and were so grown up and great teachers, not only gaining some leadership skills, but also practicing their English with children who had English as their first or second language. Great to think that some of our Ambassadors barely spoke English back in September, or were painfully shy, and here they were really blooming and confident, and having a great time leading each group of little people. Everyone was really focused, and the kids really seemed to enjoy the activity too. Those who were faster, made about 10 little finger puppets, and some even worked with the Ambassadors to make paper bags to keep them in, so they could carry their puppets home and tell their parents their new song, and afterwards they did exactly as they were told, really quickly and efficiently and put everything away tidily. I was so excited to see that they even had different boxes, for recycling, for white scraps of paper, and for coloured scraps of paper, and lovely pots with children’s scissors, pens, glue and so on. A real pleasure to be in a proper classroom again, and where so much time and effort had gone into organising everything, again, kudos to the class teacher.
Once we had finished our finger puppets, we came back together in a circle on the mat, and did the 5 little fishies song again. Then, those who had made ten finger puppets taught our Ambassadors the ‘once I caught a fish alive’ song, which I had originally decided not to teach them as I know it can be a hard one to understand for pre schoolers who are not International, but these girls had clearly been brought up on it, so that was great to see, and to see them teaching the big kids, our Oceans Ambassadors.
Next, we read a story about the ocean, chosen from the great selection of books that their teacher had collected for them, and far superior to the one we had brought with us, since we don’t have any children’s books as yet (definitely something we should try and get for the future), however we do have some brilliant books donated and shipped to us from Darien Book Aid (http://www.darienbookaid.org/) in the USA about the oceans, but these are for the ages of our Ambassadors, as we requested, rather than for little kids. But definitely something for the future, as and when funds allow, especially the hermit crab book which I came across recently, and which the children had already been using in class as their teacher had brought it with her from the USA.
And finally, after our story, we had question time, where the kids could ask us any question that they wanted, and boy were they good (and unexpected) questions! For instance, sleep was a popular question, how do sharks/turtles/dolphins sleep, how did sharks get to be in the sea, where did they come from, where does the water in the sea come from, why do lobsters have sharp claws and how do they use them, why do jellyfish sting, why do octopus squirt ink, why do clown fish hide in corals, and so many more questions, all of which were equally brilliant! Thankfully, our Oceans Ambassadors know a whole lot more than me, and managed to fend off most of the questions, though I too would like to know how sharks sleep!! So I guess I also have some homework to do!! I was not expecting those kinds of questions from 3 and 4 year olds, so again, kudos to their class teacher who has shared so many great resources with them, including video footage of her own scuba dives around the world. A proper teacher, who clearly loves what she does, and has so much energy and enthusiasm for teaching. I’d be massively impressed to find such a teacher in the UK or USA, let alone in Georgia where there isn’t such a tradition, or such resources available for teaching!
One of our Ambassadors took lots of photos, especially great since she is doing photography for her International Award, and better still is that I can also sign the diaries of all of the Ambassadors taking their Award as this counts towards any of the sections in their books. I’m sure there will be some great photos to come, and I’ll try and upload them as and when I get them, especially the group photo which I am sure will show you just how much fun (and how exhausted we all were) during the session. We have been invited back to the school to do the same thing but with the Georgian sector, and it was really difficult to prise the Ambassadors and little kids away from each other, as there were so many hugs and cuddles. We really have come such a long way as OPG, and this was a great opportunity for us, and one which has a lot of potential in the future, especially in terms of education about the ocean and the Black Sea, and who knows, once we have done our Snorkel Instructor courses and trained up our Ambassadors, maybe we can even join the little kids at the swimming pool one day and do a snorkelling session with them too?
Unfortunately we didn’t get time to use them for an activity today, but we did leave them with the teacher for the children to colour later on. But, my friend Helen in the UK drew some amazing pictures for us to use in the session today. She drew them yesterday, and will be sending more later, as well as doing a lot of the art work for our OPG International website and for any worksheets and things we make later on. Helen studied art at college, before training as a Psychiatric Nurse, and then opening up her own Thai restaurant, but I’ve always felt it a shame that she should spend all her time doing other jobs for money, whilst not having the opportunity to be paid for what she does so well and loves, i.e. art and illustration. I’m on a mission to get her recognised for her talents and I would really love to see her make a career as an illustrator and also to publish some of the beautiful children’s books she has made just for fun. And if we can promote her through OPG somehow then that will be just brilliant, so I hope everyone will help us to get her work out there and to set up a career as an artist, her true calling.
These are some of the pictures she drew for us yesterday, and which we gave to the school for the children to colour:
I hope you’ll agree that they are great, and if you have any ideas of how we can help to promote her work, please shout. I’ll try and share some more of her work later.
But for now, I need to go and work on my PhD and some funding applications and upload some more videos for OPG. I uploaded a few more recently, which you may or may not want to see, so I’ll add those here too:)
This one I put together about our International Award for Young People (Duke of Edinburgh) training weekend:
This one was a presentation put together by OPG Leader Dave on one of our Saturday sessions:
And finally, a little Georgian from one of our Ambassadors Dachi:
And if you missed it before, check out Zaza’s video: